Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas invited all Israeli ministers to visit Ramallah and talk with him, including Ayelet Shaked, after he hosted a delegation from the Meretz party on Sunday night.
“We don’t have to agree with one another, we just have to talk,” Abbas told the Meretz delegation. It included party head and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej and Meretz faction head MK Michal Rozin.
“I want to meet with as many ministers as possible,” Abbas said. “We’ll agree on some things and after that we will agree on other things."
Meretz politicians have visited Abbas in the past when they were in the opposition, but this is the first time they have done so as members of the government.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has also visited Abbas, but the question of whether to speak with the Palestinian leader is a divisive one within the government.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yamina party and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party have no interest in speaking with Abbas.
But Abbas told the Meretz politicians that he would like to meet Lapid and Bennett, noting that both he and the prime minister would both be making separate trips to Moscow next month. He suggested that Russia could arrange a parlay between them.
To emphasize his point that it was the conversation, not the results that mattered, Abbas noted that he would particularly like to meet with Interior Minister Shaked, who, like Bennett, has opposed contact with him.
“You have a Minister Shaked, tell her I want to meet her,” Abbas told the Meretz politicians. “I want to see everyone, not just my friends. I know that it’s difficult, but I would like to host her. She can say whatever she wants; it could be that we would have only one percent agreement between us, or not even that, but we’ll talk,” Abbas said. The Palestinian leader’s statements from the meeting were given to reporters by sources in Meretz.
A startled Shaked immediately took to Twitter to reject Abbas’s offer of a meeting.
“It won’t happen,” she flatly wrote.
“I won’t meet a Holocaust denier who is suing Israeli soldiers at The Hague and paying murderers of Jews,” Shaked tweeted.
“Good night,” she added.
In marked contrast to Shaked, the Meretz delegation in Ramallah spoke about the importance of dialogue and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. They pledged their support for a two-state resolution to the conflict, even though the peace process has been frozen since 2014.
“We arrived today to rebuild a direct and permanent channel [of communication], and to give a ‘booster’ to collaboration,” Horowitz said.
Abbas told the delegation, “We must create confidence-building measures that will prove that we intend to make peace and allow me to preserve the hope of the Palestinian people.”
“If we lose hope, we will lose the future,” Abbas added.
The 73-year wait for a Palestinian state has to come to an end, he said.
“How long can we wait,” Abbas asked. “I don’t want you to be conquerors, I want us to be good neighbors,” he added.
Horowitz told Abbas that “within the government, Meretz is tasked with keeping the two-state solution alive. We will not let it disappear and we will not sabotage the chances of achieving it in the future, because there is no other solution.”
He spoke against unilateral Israeli activity that would harm any future plans for two states such as settlement and outpost construction as well as violence against Palestinians by Jewish extremists.
Frej told Abbas, “you are our partner” in advancing two states. Cooperation between ministries and governments is essential to improve the current reality, he added.
Rozin added that her party would “do everything necessary” to build the foundations for peace.
Former prime minister and current leader of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, attacked Health Minister Horowitz for meeting with Abbas, noting that he had left the COVID-19 cabinet meeting in order to do so.
Likud faction head MK Yariv Levin accused the Meretz delegation of crawling to Abbas. The meeting showed that Horowitz cared more about meeting “with the terrorist financier Abu Mazen than the health of Israeli citizens,” Levin charged.
Prior to meeting with the Meretz delegation, Abbas called the family of Israa Khuzaimia, who was killed by Israeli police after she attempted to stab an officer in Jerusalem’s Old City last week.
Abbas offered his condolences to Khuzaimia’s family, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA. The agency described Khuzaimia as a mother of four from the northern West Bank town of Kabatiya, south of Jenin.